What Is A Face Fit Test?

Ever wondered what exactly is involved in a face fit test for a “dust mask” or indeed why you need one? Once again, it’s time for 1974 Rapport Ltd to dispel a few more myths…

It’s a common misconception that a Face Fit Test is a costly and complex procedure that somehow involves moulding or modifying a mask to the wearers face; simply not true!

It’s a simple, quick and effective method to demonstrate if tight fitting respiratory protective equipment (RPE) does or does not create an effective seal to the wearers face; if a mask does not create a seal, if does not protect the wearer, an alarming percentage of masks simply do not fit the wearer.

Aside form the ethical & moral reasons for protecting the Health and Safety of workers, the simple illustration below explains how UK Regulations & HSE guidance make it a mandatory requirement to face fit test those wearing close fitting respirators & filtering face pieces.

HSAW 1974 > MGMT 1999 > COSHH 2005 > PPE 1992 > HSG53 >OC282/28

There are two common types of fit test; The Qualitative method (AKA the ”Taste Test”) and The Quantitative method (AKA the “TSI Portacount” Test)...

The Quantitative Method involves the use of instrumentation, the equipment measures an ambient particle count in the surrounding atmosphere and compares this reading to the particle count within the mask giving a “fit factor”. This type of fit test is typically suited to those working in higher risk sectors or those wearing full face RPE.

The Qualitative Method is a simple process and very effective when undertaken by a competent fit tester. A foul tasting Bittrex solution (Denatonium Benzoate) is sprayed into the breathing zone of the RPE wearer, held there by a hood placed over the wearers head. The Bittrex solution in aerosol form is not able to pass through the filter of the mask, therefore if the wearers tastes the solution, a seal has not been achieved and the mask does not fit.

Either test method incorporates a range of basic exercises to demonstrate that the mask will be effective whilst in use. The fit testing process should be used during RPE selection and should be repeated when either the type of mask or the wearers facial features change.

Face fit testing should be undertaken by a “competent person”, a list of BSIF fit2fit approved, competent fit testers can be found at http://fit2fit.org/

For detailed information on Face fit Testing, the HSE have issued a guidance document INDG479 or please do feel free to contact 1974 Rapport Ltd for free, impartial, common sense advice.

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